Charity aims to help cancer fighters graduate college, build careers

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Craig Pollard wrote a business plan on starting Cancer for College during his final year at USC Business School. Photo by Shutterstock.

Cancer for College is a 30-year-old nonprofit that says it has granted more than $5 million to students with cancer, plus cancer survivors who missed school because of treatments. People of all ages nationwide can apply for aid.

Founder Craig Pollard beat cancer three times. His second battle was during college, when he got a bone marrow transplant and spent a summer in the hospital. After he was released, he volunteered as a counselor at a camp in LA. On a parent visitation day, moms and dads told him how great it was that he was still attending college after what he had gone through. 

“They had exhausted all of their funds for just ancillary costs …  travel costs, and parents having to quit jobs to be able to take their child to radiation treatments every day or to chemo. … That's when the light bulb went on, and I went back to college for my senior year in USC Business School, and wrote a business plan on starting Cancer for College,” he recalls. 

The organization has expanded beyond scholarships. They now offer mentorship and help with medical debt and job placement. 

“We've always said, ‘Who would you rather hire? A 21, 22-year-old kid who's been on death's doorstep and has a focus on life — versus somebody that has never gone through a struggle and make it to that first job and not know how to handle difficult times? Where a cancer survivor can.’ And so we really help mentor these kids, try to help them get jobs,” says Pollard. 

Right now, the organization can support only 20% of applicants — and the average family income is under $46,000 — but the goal is to be closer to 100%, he points out. 

They will be holding their 30th annual fundraiser in October at the Greek Theater with Will Ferrell hosting to try to reach that goal.